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Hayden Fowler

New World Order  2013

single-channel digital video, HD, colour, sound

15minutes 17sec

Museum of Contemporary Art, purchased with the assistance of MCA Young Ambassadors, 2013

2013.74

About the Artwork

In the video New World Order Hayden Fowler depicts a dense woodland of blackened and sallow trees inhabited by an ‘ecology’ of peculiar birds. Ashen and barren, this eerie environment resembles something between a scene from a fairy tale and a vision of a post-apocalyptic future. Animating this strange world is a group of rare, heritage-breed chickens, whose unusual plumage is completely unlike the common domestic and commercial fowl breeds with which we are more familiar. Preening high up on a branch, scratching the scabby ground or slipping under the tree roots into underground burrows, the chickens appear completely at home in this unnatural place. At regular intervals a bird will call, emitting a computerised sound of blips and clicks that punctuates the silence of the dark forest.

New World Order appears to exist out of time, incorporating elements from both the past and the future. Presented as a series of sliding vignettes, the video draws on historical and contemporary depictions of nature, from landscape paintings and museum dioramas through to wildlife documentary films. An underlying theme in a number of Fowler’s works is the relationship between the real and the fictitious. New World Order continues this exploration by depicting a scenario in which there is no clear distinction between authentic or synthetic nature. As the video progresses we begin to query what it is we are seeing – are they real birds? What is that noise they are making? Where is the forest? But in this hybrid world such questions no longer seem to have any meaning.

Drawing on contemporary discussions around ecological destruction, genetic modification and the alienation of an increasingly urban society from the natural environment, New World Order presents a place that merges scientific theory with popular culture. However, even though New World Order may suggest a dystopic future, there is hope, for life continues even in this barren place.

Updated and approved August 2016.

Hayden Fowler

– About the artist

Born 1973, Te Awamutu, New Zealand. Lives and works Sydney, Australia.


Hayden Fowler creates photographic, video, installation and performance works featuring human and animal subjects in elaborately constructed sets. Much of his work is concerned with the relationship between humans, animals and nature, and our understanding of ourselves as a civilisation and a species. Fowler originally trained as a biologist, majoring in animal behaviour, before undertaking undergraduate studies in art.

Fowler has exhibited widely, including the selected solo exhibitions Your Death, Gallery 9, Sydney (2015); Call of the Wild (Whekau), Michael Reid Gallery, Sydney (2014); New World Order, University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand (2013); The Long Forgetting, Dubbo Regional Gallery, NSW (2011); Call of the Wild, Fremantle Arts Centre, Fremantle (2008); and Video Projects, Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetu, New Zealand (2007).

Recent group exhibitions include New Romance: Art from Australia and Korea, Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Seoul (2015); Wild Side: The Animal in Art, Lake Macquarie City Art Gallery, Lake Macquarie (2014); Among the Machines, Dunedin Public Art Gallery, New Zealand (2013); The Visitor, Black & White Gallery, Brooklyn, USA (2012); Awfully Wonderful, Performance Space, Sydney (2011); The Blake Prize, National Art School Gallery, Sydney (2011); and The Animal Gaze, London Metropolitan University, UK (2009).

Fowler’s work is held in a number of collections, including the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra; Artbank, Sydney; Elton John Collection, London; and Dunedin Public Art Gallery, New Zealand.

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– Other works by the artist

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